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Whether you use the word "Gombey" to refer to the dancers or the dance itself, it generally refers to a Bermudian tradition that began when black slaves were first brought from Africa and the Caribbean. "Gombey" is said to be derived from an African or Bantu word meaning "rhythm."
With bright & colorful costumes and masks and long-held ways of dancing, it would be easy to mistake Gombey dancers in Bermuda for the "Mummers" in Philadelphia, or the "crews" of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. [In Philadelphia or New Orleans the groups would be called "crews" or "brigades," etc.] One way in which the Gombey dancers' tradition does differ from the American groups is that the Bermudian people throw cash & coins at the Gombeys versus in America where the parade crews actually throw trinkets at the people in the roadside watchers.
Dance routines are based on African, American Indian, Biblical, British "mummers" and West Indian lore and traditions. Each group is a "crowd." There is a method of collecting contributions from spectators though I have no idea how. The musical accompaniment is usually a kettle drum with two snare drums, covered with goat skin, and a beer bottle fife which produces the sound of a flute crossed with a whistle.
As the story goes: "The Wild Indian and Trapper have a perpetual chase. The Chiefs also carry large tomahawks and shields. Warriors or Choppers include children of families. Under the Captain, the dancers have duets and solos simulating combat. Once, they also re-enacted biblical stories like David's fight with Goliath. "
The dance itself was originally intended to be performed only on Britain's & Bermuda's Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year's Day - the two days of the year when slaves were given a rest from their labors. Today, they appear much more frequently at public events.
Traditional Gombey troupes include: Warner's Gombeys, Norford's, the Shakey Smith Troupe, Richardson's, and Wilson's Troupe. Philadelphia Mummer brigades as well as Mardi Gras crews in New Orleans also carry names which were established decades upon decades ago. I found it surprising to learn about these similarities between our two countries' traditions. Before moving to the northeast coast of the US, I had never heard of Mummers myself.
Updated Jan 17, 2013
When travelling in this wonderful part of the world make sure that you Don't underestimate the power of the heat in the sun.
Sunburn can creep up on you if you don't have a sunscreen on ..Also make sure that you have a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. Whether you be snorkelling,diving , or just laying in the sun out boating and enjoying the beauty and clearness of the waters here , and taking in the amazing colours , the many shades of blue and greens is to be beleived .. but ,the reflection of the sun can be a problem if not taken into consideration. Anywhere in this lovely part of the world can get extremely hot so make sure that you apply a reliable strong sunscreen to all exposed areas use a sunscreen of at least 30+ to avoid the dangers of the sun. I carry also a lip balm and a moisturiser when in the sun and after.
Written Jan 15, 2012